Premise COVID-19 Snapshot: U.S. Social Distancing

Premise COVID-19 Snapshot: U.S. Social Distancing

By Theo Reuter and Saleel Huprikar | Junior Geospatial Data Scientist, Data Scientist Intern

As COVID-19 has spread across the U.S. in recent weeks, health officials are strongly encouraging people to use “social distancing” to help “flatten the curve.”  These concepts stem from a major recommendation by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC), which is that one of the best ways to reduce the spread of COVID-19 is to limit the physical contact between you and others. 

With the continued spread of COVID-19 across the United States, Premise is working to monitor people’s sentiments towards social distancing to better understand how people are reacting to the virus, and how well they understand public health measures that can help reduce the spread of the disease. A successful implementation of these behavioral recommendations will have a direct impact on curtailing the spread of novel coronavirus in the United States. You can see other information Premise is collecting on COVID-19, like our Global Impact Survey data, here.

Social Distancing Survey Responses

On March 17th, Premise put a survey in the field to collect information regarding our Contributors’ understanding and implementation of social distancing in the United States. As of March 23rd, we had collected a total of 4,663 responses. Questions of highest interest were those pertaining to our Contributors’ understanding of social distancing guidelines and whether they were practicing them. Collection on these (and other) topics is ongoing, so check back to Premise’s website soon for updated information on the spread of COVID-19 and its impact.

This map illustrates the distribution of survey responses to our COVID-19 Social Distancing survey.

Case Study – The West Coast

Based on the high number of reported outbreaks to date, as well as the number of initial survey responses, we elected to take a closer look at the West Coast to study how a region that has been hard hit by COVID-19 is reacting. From March 17th to March 23rd, Premise received 565 responses from Contributors on the West Coast (breakdown seen to the left), which is enough to draw statistically significant conclusions about how the population is feeling and behaving regarding social distancing. 

Social Distancing Understanding

Considering the CDC’s recommended buffer of 6 feet to enforce social distance, Premise can report with 95% confidence that a majority of people on the West Coast—between 54.7% – 62.8%—comprehend that the preferred distance to maintain while performing social distancing is 6 feet.  Government officials could take this as a sign that the public is absorbing the correct information from public health officials’ recommendations. 

Acting On Social Distancing Recommendations

Additionally, when it comes to practicing social distancing, Premise is able to say with 95% confidence that between 60.7% – 68.5% of the West Coast population—a clear majority— agree with the following statement: “I closely follow the guidance of social distancing.” This should be reassuring to health care professionals that a majority of the population there are engaged in practices known to reduce the spread of COVID-19, while it should still be recognized that a significant proportion of the population continues to not practice social distancing. Together with the above, these indicate the West Coast people are not only listening to public health recommendations but are also acting on them.

Why People Are Social Distancing

Premise also asked these Contributors about the factors that contributed and allowed them to engage in social distancing, to see if there are any trends or common reasons why people are choosing to engage in social distancing or not. It should be noted that Contributors were allowed to select multiple reasons for their decision to engage or not engage in social distancing. Based on the initial results, while many are engaging in social distancing as COVID-19 spreads, roughly a third of West Coast respondents are not for a variety of reasons-some said they simply cannot because their job does not allow them to work from home (39%), while others said they do not interact with people in vulnerable populations (32%).

On the other hand, from the reasons Premise offered, the most common responses given to explain what contributed/allowed Contributors to conduct social distancing are the following:

  • 44% – “Others in the community are engaging in social distancing.”
  • 33% – “Members of my household are part of a vulnerable group.”
  • 30% – “I can work from home.”

While no single response on either side yet has gained a majority, Premise data matches what is commonly understood—that people have a variety of reasons they are engaging in social distancing (or not), but the encouraging bottom line so far is that the majority have begun to take these safety precautions. Premise will continue to analyze the data as responses are collected, but in the interim, we are happy to know that a large proportion of the population are doing what they can to #flattenthecurve.

We would like to encourage Americans to continue to do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 by following the advice of medical professionals and practicing social distancing, as local governments continue to educate the public on these measures.

Read more about the data we’re collecting on COVID-19 at If you’re interested in learning how Premise could help your organization get real-time insight around the globe during this challenging time, email us at 

About Theo Reuter and Saleel Huprikar

Theo Reuter is a Geospatial Data Scientist who is passionate about data and how it can be used to tell stories. Recently graduated from the University of Maryland College Park with an MS in GIS, he has been hard at work at Premise since January 2020 providing mapping, scripting and spatial data analysis, leveraging the spatial nature of the data Premise collects.

Saleel Huprikar is a Data Scientist intern, who joined Premise Data in February of this year. He recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied Economics, Mathematics and Statistics. Saleel is very passionate about the intersection of statistics and social sciences; he recently published a research paper in the Berkeley Economic Review that analyzes how state-level and local-level economic conditions (e.g. cost of living) affect people’s attitudes towards a federal minimum wage increase using a statistical regression framework. At Premise, Saleel has been involved in developing and implementing statistical methodologies in order to help Premise understand the data that it has collected and establish an analytical strategy for future data collection.